Sun. Jan 16th, 2022

Precedent after precedent has established a clear and unambiguous separation of church and state for this nation, and it is only those people who have a vested interest in organized religion, specifically Catholicism, who argue the contrary. The phrase “Under God” is not as ambiguous of a clause as some would like us to believe.Most Americans are astonished when they realize that the original Pledge of Allegiance, written in 1892, makes absolutely no reference to God whatsoever, and that it wasn’t until 1954 when the Knights of Columbus, an all-male Christian brotherhood, “One Nation, Under Dogma” pressured Congress into altering the original pledge to include the clause “under God.” Therefore, the belief that “under God” is representative of all religions, not just Christianity, is misleading at best.

The greatest irony of all is that the Pledge of Allegiance’s author, Francis Bellamy, was a Christian Socialist. Even Bellamy, a Baptist minister, refused to include any mention of God in his pledge. He was eventually forced out of the church as a result of his pro-Socialist agenda.

What exactly are the benefits to society as a whole by including the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance? The lack of beneficial evidence is perhaps the strongest validation that the secular argument is based on religious ideology rather than objectivity. Some use the solitary defense that the clause “under God” was addedin order to “contrast the godless Communists.”

Without religious partiality fueling one’s fire, not a single, coherent argument in favor of the instatement and/or preservation of the clause is clearly evident.

Some religious activists are desperately trying to dispute the legitimacy of America’s separation of church and state, but as the First Amendment unmistakably affirms, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

So there really doesn’t have to be a fight over this. Congress should simply return the Pledge of Allegiance to its original, unaltered state, and both sides could shake hands and walk away. One of several innate flaws with the secular perspective is that their argument is based on a veiled misconception: that the Pledge of Allegiance–in its original form contained the phrase “under God”, which it did not.

People of faith, particularly those who subscribe to America’s dominant religion, Catholicism, seem to favor its infiltration of what seems like every aspect of the public sphere, by impregnating it with their ideological rhetoric. From public schools to court houses to currency, one doesn’t have to look far to see the markings of a phantom theocratic society.

No one in this country, particularly young and impressionable school children, should be coerced into uttering the words “under God” as found within the Pledge of Allegiance. Not every American family believes in the Christian God endorsed by the Pledge of Allegiance, and so it is inherently unconstitutional for the phrase “under God” to be anywhere within the vicinity of our public schools. Tomorrow, if the Pledge of Allegiance, recited daily by America’s school children, were changed from “under God” to “under Vishnu,” the same religious zealots in favor of reciting “under God” in public schools would cry foul.

Were it the case that public school children were required to list alphabetically the name of every god ever known to mankind during their recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, maybe there would not be an issue. The problem arises when one particular god, in this case a Christian God, is favored. This legislative burden is then passed on to the shoulders of our school children who, regardless of their religious beliefs, are coerced into reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and/or forced to hear it repeated everyday in school. This wouldn’t be an issue were schools not a public institution reserved solely for the acquisition of knowledge, free (theoretically speaking) from all religious ideology. I understand that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance is, in theory, a voluntary act, but more needs to be done to protect our children from the undue religious coercion they face in our public schools.

The United States was founded on the idea of religious freedom. The dominant religion has a constitutional (and in my opinion, moral) responsibility not to burden those citizens who do not wish to participate in religious activities. Spirituality is a personal choice that ought to remain on that level; not something that should be championed in public school.

Some may assert that “the Pledge of Allegiance was not set up to foster a religion, but rather a national identity.” This is a blatant falsehood. While it may be correct to assert that the Pledge was initiated to cultivate a national identity,one is mistaken in believing that our current Pledge of Allegiance performs that noble function.

In reality, only the original, unaltered Pledge truly promotes a centralized national identity; an identity that refuses to favor a particular religion. As you will recall, it wasn’t until the mid-1950s that zealous Christians marred the original document, using the Pledge’s prevalence in our children’s lives to further entrench Christian fundamentalism into the public sphere; specifically, our public schools.

Contrary to what many believe, the current Pledge of Allegiance was indeed enacted to foster a religion, a very particular religion: Christianity. After all, it was a Christian organization, the Knights of Columbus, who facilitated Congress’s decision to add the words “under God” to our Pledge of Allegiance.

One would be assured that if, in 1954, a group of Islamic fundamentalists lobbied Congress to include the phrase “under Allah” in the American Pledge of Allegiance, they would have been turned down without so much as polite consideration.

Catholicism has been greatly favored in the United States since its conception and presently, many still consider it to be “the norm.”

Regrettably, it is this exact form of insular, religious ideological philosophy that led to the establishment of the much disputed “under God” clause over fifty years ago.

Myself, along with many otherAmericans, am offended by what some may consider to be just “two simple words,” but I am more offended by the blatant hypocrisy of this country’s so-called nonsecular democracy that not only favors but fosters the entrenchment of a single religion in our public schools.

Roger Thomas Holst is a senior majoring in literature.

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